, Salem, MA


February 28, 2014

Letter: Memories of Shirley Temple


For a while, the Ivory soap flake boxes my mother purchased to do laundry had tucked inside deep blue glass dishes with Shirley Temple’s face in white in the center of the plate. At first, we had to take turns using the one blue dish. Wouldn’t our mother please to do more laundry so she would need more soap? She refused to do any more laundry. Sigh. So it was a while before we had collected a second plate, and at last, we had three, so we three sisters each had our own dish. Other boxed merchandise, like cereal and Bisquick, held mugs and soup dishes, too, all with Shirley’s face. We never had a lot of those dishes, but we cherished the few we had.

Our swing set in the backyard had three swings. We’d sit on our swings and sing Shirley Temple’s hits at the top of our lungs, “On the Good Ship Lollipop,” “Animal Crackers in My Soup,” and loudest of all we would sing, “Polly Wolly Doodle all the Day.” If we didn’t remember all the words, we’d just make some up, so the songs might be different each time we sang. I think it was the movie “Wee Willie Winkie” where I first heard “Auld Lang Syne” and fell in love with bagpipes.

The Swiss Alps became our favorite place in the world when Shirley starred in “Heidi.” In our hearts, we knew we’d happily follow the goats up to the mountain pasture, too, just as Shirley’s Heidi did. Her movie, The “Littlest Rebel” cemented my dislike of war. When Shirley did a ballet dance in “The Little Princess,” we sisters were sure if we kept attending our dancing school classes, we could become ballerinas, too. Shirley must have worked constantly in her early years to have made so many movies.

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